Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Health and Nutritional Sciences

First Advisor

Jessica Meendering


Environment, Perception, Physical Activity, Rural


Purpose: To assess the physical activity environment, community perceptions of the physical activity environment, and the relationship between these variables in rural and/or underserved communities with high obesity prevalence.
Methods: The Rural Active Living Assessment (RALA) was used to assess the programs and policies (PPA), town-wide amenities (TWA), and street segments (SSA) of the physical activity environment and the Rural Active Living Perceived Environmental Support Scale (RALPESS) was used to assess community perception of the physical activity environment within eleven rural and/or underserved communities. Each section of the RALA and RALPESS are further broken down into additional subsections in order to assess specific aspects of the physical activity environment. Due to different absolute scores possible in each subsection, relative scores were calculated to allow for comparison between subsections. Data was analyzed with STATA and presented as mean ± standard deviation. Pairwise correlations were used to assess the relationship between the physical activity environment (RALA) and community perception of the physical activity environment (RALPESS). Statistical significance was set at p < 0.05.
Results: Eleven communities completed the RALA and 170 individuals completed the RALPESS. The RALA score was 53.4 ± 9.28%. The TWA scored 58.4 ± 16.0%, parks and playgrounds (78.2 ± 22.0%) scored highest and trails (35 ± 39.7 %) scored lowest (n=11). The PPA score was 43.82 ± 17.97 %, school policies (63.6 ± 32.3 %) scored highest and town policies (17.3 ± 30.7 %) scored lowest (n=11). The SSA score was 69.1 ± 17.5%, (lack of) barriers (90.0 ± 21.6%) scored highest and safety features (27.6 ± 18.0 %) scored lowest (n=10). The RALPESS score was 50.2 ± 13.8%. Schools (71.0 ± 24.6%) scored highest and churches (32.6 ± 20.7 %) scored lowest (n=11). No significant relationship was found between the total score on the RALA and RALPESS (r=0.48, p=0.16).
Conclusion: There is not a relationship between perception of the PA environment and the PA environment in rural and/or underserved communities. The quality of amenities may be a main contributor to the lack of relationship as resources in poor quality may influence the way individuals perceive these PA resources. Lack of relationship may also be due to the possible inability of the assessment tools to capture PA support within extremely rural areas. The present study highlighted that schools are a key hub for physical activity efforts within rural and/or underserved communities. Implementation of programs in schools and bringing awareness to these programs may improve the perceptions and physical activity environments in rural communities and promote more physical activity.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Rural population -- Attitudes.
Rural health.
Health behavior.
Physical fitness.



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright